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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 612-626
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Health Insurance Data
 Header Item Air Navigation Orders
 Header Item General Practitioner Data
 Header Item Cancer Services Provision
 Header Item Cancer Services Provision
 Header Item Respite Care Services
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Organ Donation
 Header Item Organ Donation
 Header Item Psychological Services

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 612-626

Vaccination Programme

 612. Deputy Jim Daly Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris when the meningitis B vaccine catch-up programme will be rolled out to older children (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18170/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The HSE Service Plan included additional funding of €2.5 million for the expansion of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme in 2016. Two changes were made to the schedule which came into effect on 1 December, 2016 with the introduction of Men B and Rotavirus for all babies born on or after 1 October, 2016. All vaccines administered through the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme are provided free of charge. Ireland is the second country in Europe to make the vaccine available free of charge as part of its national immunisation programme.

NIAC makes many recommendations in relation to “at risk groups” but not all of these are included in the current immunisation schedule. The introduction of the vaccine to the childhood immunisation programmes means that all children born on or after 1 October 2016, including those in "at risk groups", will automatically receive the vaccine. However, there are no plans at this stage to introduce a catch-up programme for older children. Those who have a medical card are eligible to have the vaccine administered by their GP free of charge. However the purchase of the vaccine is not covered by the medical card scheme.

Health Insurance Data

 613. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of persons with private health insurance; the number of persons covered by policies in which there is a 10% group discount available through their employer or some other mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18172/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Our community-rated health insurance market means that the cost of health insurance is shared across all members of the market. In general, everyone, with certain exceptions, can buy the same policy at the same price. There are 2.152 million people holding private health insurance in Ireland, or 46% of the population (end-December 2016), which represents an increase of over 30,000 members in 2016.

Section 7(5)(b)(iii) of the Health Insurance Act 1994 provides for a discretionary discount of up to 10%, which an insurer may give to a group of persons on private health insurance contracts. The group discount offered can vary from group to group or plan to plan and also vary over time. On certain plans, insurers routinely offer discounts of 10% of the net premium to all purchasers of a plan. On other plans, insurers selectively offer discounts to employees of certain employer sponsored schemes and the discount may vary depending on the employer.

The Health Insurance Authority monitors the health insurance market and collects relevant information such as the number of people holding health insurance, age breakdown of the insured population, number of plans on the market and other market statistics. As the Authority does not collect information regarding the number of persons covered by policies with a 10% group discount, I am unable to supply information in this regard.

Air Navigation Orders

 614. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if HSE emergency co-ordinators were informed of an agreement which was entered into allowing the RAF permission to shoot down hijacked planes over Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18176/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris In accordance with the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in Ireland rests with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade. I cannot comment on any reports concerning national security matters or responses that might be taken in the event of an attack on Ireland or a serious and immediate security threat to Ireland and the Irish people.

General Practitioner Data

 615. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if there is a sufficient number of doctors in Dublin 7 for persons on medical cards. [18184/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris As of 1 April 2017, there are 2,482 GPs who hold GMS and GP Visit Card contracts with the HSE for the provision of general practitioner services to medical card holders and GP visit card holders.

As the numbers of GPs with GMS contracts available to take on medical card and GP visit card patients in Dublin 7 is not routinely collected by my Department, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services Provision

 616. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his plans to make proton beam therapy available here. [18185/17]

 617. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if clinical trials for proton beam therapy have taken place here. [18186/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 616 and 617 together.

  The infrastructure and equipment required for proton beam therapy is hugely expensive and provision of such a facility in Ireland for the number of patients involved is not practical at this time.

  In 2015, a total of 22 patients were referred for proton beam therapy in treatment centres abroad under the Treatment Abroad Scheme. This represents an extremely small proportion of Irish patients who are receiving radiotherapy. The National Cancer Control Programme will continue to monitor the number of Irish patients being referred overseas for proton beam therapy, as well as developments in technology that may impact on the viability of providing this treatment here.

  As proton beam therapy is not available in Ireland, no clinical trials have taken place here.

Cancer Services Provision

 618. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the Chief Medical Officer is of the view that proton beam therapy is an effective treatment. [18187/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Proton beam therapy is a form of radiotherapy which is only used for treating certain specific cancer types. It is a relatively new form of treatment with narrow indications for use and therefore the evidence base is limited. Decisions relating to appropriate treatment, including radiotherapy, for individual patients with cancer are a matter for clinicians (cancer specialists) in consultation with patients and their families. The very small number of Irish patients (22 in 2015), who are clinically assessed as benefitting from proton beam therapy, avail of the treatment overseas under the HSE’s Treatment Abroad Scheme. Further international research in larger populations is required before the clinical indications for the use of proton beam therapy could be extended.

Respite Care Services

 619. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of respite beds available for persons with intellectual disabilities under 18 years of age and over 18 years of age, respectively, by location, county and organisation or service provider for each of the past three years. [18189/17]

 620. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if respite beds are designated for each age cohort or otherwise used by rotation; and, if so, the rotation timetable. [18190/17]

 621. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the number of persons seeking respite by location and county for each of the past three years; if such respite was actually availed of; if not, the reason therefor; the number of persons who have yet to be offered such respite; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18191/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I propose to take Questions Nos. 619 to 621, inclusive, together.

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The Programme for Partnership Government states that the Government wishes to provide more accessible respite care to facilitate full support for people with a disability.

As the Deputy's questions relate to service matters, I have arranged for the questions to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities

 622. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if funding at present is allocated to services (details supplied) in counties Cavan and Monaghan; his plans for investment in either county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18194/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Organ Donation

 623. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the process that would be implemented for the families of the deceased to veto organ donation in view of the fact that organ harvesting takes place as quickly as possible following death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18221/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris At present the next-of-kin of organ donors are consulted prior to removing any organ and their express consent for organ donation is sought.

Work on scoping the parameters of legislation for a Human Tissue Bill is currently being undertaken in my Department. It is envisaged that this Bill will provide for an opt-out system of consent for organ donation. Under the proposed system, consent will be deemed unless the person has, while alive, registered his/her wish not to become an organ donor after death. However, it is proposed that, even though consent is deemed, the next-of-kin will in practice always be consulted prior to removing any organ (“soft” opt-out system). The aim is to make organ donation the norm in situations where the opportunity arises.

Organ Donation

 624. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his estimate of the increase in organ transplants that can be expected; if there are enough doctors to keep up with this increase in transplant surgeries; his views on whether funds should be devoted to acquire additional doctors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18222/17]

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My Department is working closely with HSE's Organ Donation Transplantation Ireland (ODTI) to support initiatives aimed at increasing the levels of organ donation and transplantation. This has included the allocation of increased funding in recent years. Additional staff have been recruited to foster a culture of organ donation, to optimise conversion rates and to ultimately increase the number of transplants that are carried out. My Department considers that organ donation and transplant services are sufficiently resourced at present.

The number of deceased organ donations will always fluctuate depending on the donor opportunities that arise. The emphasis is on endeavouring to ensure that we avail of all opportunities that arise for organ donation.

  Question No. 625 answered with Question No. 595.

Psychological Services

 626. Deputy Tom Neville Information on Tom Neville Zoom on Tom Neville asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if approval has been given to counselling or psychological services (details supplied) at primary care level for 2017; if so, the number that have been signed off; if approval has been given by all relevant Departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; if so, the recruitment challenges there have been; and the number that have been recruited. [18252/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee In line with the commitment to develop early intervention mental health services for those under 18, €5 million has been allocated to primary care, of which €3.4 million will fund the recruitment of 114 Assistant Psychologists in primary care. This will enhance the primary care response and help to reduce waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services. My Department is engaged in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the sanctioning of these posts.

The HSE Mental Health Division currently employs approximately 213 Psychologists with 67 of these operating within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. A further 60 psychology students participate as members of community based mental health teams providing services to children and adults. In addition, the HSE, currently funds a number of agencies to provide a variety of counselling services to young people. This includes 11 existing Jigsaw sites nationally together with further planned expansion of this service for 2017 with additional sites in both Cork and in Limerick.


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